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Is America About to Abandon Ukraine?

December 14, 2023
Notes
Transcript
While President Zelensky is meeting in the White House on Dec. 12, Eric welcomes former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor to Shield of the Republic. They discuss the state of play on the supplemental aid legislation, the causes for the Ukrainian Counter Offensive’s “failure” this summer, the search for a new strategy, General Zaluzhny’s ideas about the changing character of warfare, the stresses and strains of domestic Ukrainian politics, the prospects for negotiations, the consequences of failure to get the assistance money and Plan B if the effort on the Hill fails.

Shield of the Republic is a Bulwark podcast co-sponsored by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:06

    Welcome to Shield of the Republic Secret Podcast sponsored by the Bulwark and the Miller Center of public affairs at the University of Virginia, and dedicated to the proposition articulated by Walter Littman during World War two that a strong and balanced foreign policy is the indispensable shield of our Democratic Republic. Eric Edelman, Council at the Center for Strategic and budgetary assessments, a Bulwark contributor, and a non resident fellow at the Miller center. My normal partner in this enterprise, Elliott Cohen, the Robert Eisgood professor of strategy at Johns Hopkins School Advanced International Studies and Arleigh Burke Chair of Strategy at Center for Strategic International Studies is traveling in the Middle East. He’ll be back, in the new year to join us, but I’m joined today by a very special guest. And a former colleague in both government and at the US Institute of Peace.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:58

    Ambassador Bill Taylor, former US Ambassador to Ukraine, former Sharge De Fair, to Keith in a very interesting, point of time. A graduate of the US military academy distinguished Military officers served in two of America’s storied military units, the eighty second and hundred first airborne, also with a master’s international public policy from Harvard and someone who with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working across, thirty years in government. So Bill, welcome to shield of the Republic.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:32

    Eric, it’s an honor to be here. It’s an honor to be here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:34

    So let’s start with the state of play on all things Ukraine. We’re we’re actually recording this at the exact same time that president Zelensky is meeting with president Biden, so we don’t know the outcome of that, visit. But what’s your sense of the state of play on the hill. What are the odds we’re gonna get this supplemental package that’s so desperately needed as you may have seen Jane Harmon and I, the co chairs of the National Defense Strategy Commission had an op ed in the Hill last week calling, on behalf of all the bipartisan members of the commission for passage of this legislation, It’s a little bit hard to figure out how we get from here to there even though there still seems to be a majority in both houses, for, in support of this. Kinda where does this stand?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:25

    And as a former ambassador, how well advised do you think it was for Zelensky to make this appearance here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:33

    So, Eric, on that last question’s a good one. And several people have have have discussed this. I’ve had conversations about this and it gets to your earlier part of your question, that is how how serious it is, how dire, the situation is. The Ukrainians need this support. Ukrainians, know that the United States are the single largest, provider of of weapons of ammunition, of intelligence, of the things that they need if they’re going to defend themselves against the Russians.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:08

    And, with the, with the funds rapidly running out. You spent time in that building. You know how the how the accounting goes. And, and, all of your old colleagues are telling me the same thing. That is there’s it’s it’s down to fuel.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:26

    It’s down to the bottom. So so and and Zelensky knows this, and the Ukrainians know this. And so that gets to your question about taking the risk of coming here. And it is a risk. It it was a risk for him to make make this decision.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:41

    If he can’t convince Congress, American people more broadly, then it will be seen to have failed. Not a good thing. He has, he has the supportive of virtually all Ukrainians. He has, demonstrated a leadership, and it being able to inspire the Ukraine, not just the Ukraine, inspire the world, on on this, on this fight. So this is a big risk.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:11

    And if it, goes badly, if he doesn’t, if he’s not able to to convince enough people to pass this, it’s it’s it’s a big problem for him. It’s a big problem for Ukraine. He knows that. So so it’s a rip, but on the other hand, he had to do it because it is so dire. Because it is so important because it is, critical that he get this assistance.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:34

    He had. I I think he probably figured he had no choice. His, his chief of staff, the head of the presidential administration, Andrew Yermock, was just here last week. Of course, making the same case and talking to similar kinds of people, not, you know, not quite the level, that president Zelensky is this time. But, but I’m sure Andre Yarmak went back and said, you know, you you could do this, boss.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:58

    You could do this, m, president. And I’m sure he thought Zelensky and Yarmak and that team thought very carefully about this and figured that they they they had to do it. Now that gets to your question about how balled up it is, how how what what the what the chances are. And I totally agree with you that, if this were to get to a vote and to help you to pass easily, four to one in the senate. If even on the house floor, probably, you know, three to one.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:29

    A majority my part is a majority, in both houses, would would support this. The American people, you know, they’ve been polls and polls, but, American people, even though it’s not the same level of support was a year ago, they still support by by majorities. Seller majorities, more support for for Ukraine, and continuing United assistance. But it’s gotten wrapped up this, Ukraine assistance has gotten wrapped up, with the assistance for Israel. As well as the whole border question.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:01

    The the depends on the border. And to be fair, president Biden did put all of those together in a package. And so he almost invited this, this confluence, this, confusion, this delay capability, by putting Ukraine assistance in with these other controversial pieces. In particular border. And so, president Zelensky is here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:32

    He he’s, it’s interesting, Eric. I was at a at a meeting with him with a small number of people last night over at the embassy. Ukraine and and he got He was there to kind of ask for advice on how to how to deal with all this and answer questions. He was very open. And he got two different sets of advice, about how to deal with this border question.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:58

    One one set of advice, people said, you know, it was president. You know something about borders. You’ve, you’ve been defending and moving back toward and trying to emphasize bortons, borders. You could say something about that. But then another thi thread of advice was, mister president, be real careful not to get involved in in our US domestic politics.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:26

    Which is interesting. And I had a similar conversation, Eric, with him, and your mock, back in twenty nineteen. When he was, in danger of getting up in domestic politics then. So it’s the same kind of issue now. My bet is, he will be making the case that you and I just talked about the importance of providing this assistance for Ukraine at this point, so that they can succeed on the battlefield.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:54

    We we I wanna come back to your good question about, about what that means. But but the what it what it clearly means, what as far as the United States support goes, it is crucial. And so he’s here making that case, and you’re right. We’ll we’ll listen to him and president Biden when they come out of their meeting and and make the statement. But this is an important time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:15

    As a former ambassador, not to Ukraine, but other places. You know, really would not be wise for him for the long run to get in the middle of a a very contentious American domestic political debate. I mean, I take the intellectual point about the importance of borders. That’s sort of right intellectually. It’s just probably not right you know, politically, you know, for for him.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:40

    Bill, do you share my sense that of two things? One, that we’re running out of time to get a deal done. You know, my my operating kinda calendar. I mean, obviously, there’s a legislative calendar. We’re running out of legislative days.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:55

    Senate’s supposed to go out on Thursday. I mean, you know, obviously Senator Schumer could keep them in if it looked like there was a deal, but on the other hand, know, Senator Langford, who’s one of the lead, border negotiators on the Senate side says no deal in sight. The White House is kind of finally beginning to get into this. I see that the chief of staff of the White House, you know, Jeff Insce is now kind of involved in these negotiations, although not the president, which, to me, is astonishing. So my operating kinda calendar is after January fifteenth, Iowa caucus, when it becomes apparent that, you know, Donald Trump is gonna be the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, the chances of getting Republicans is in the house to vote for this start to really fade away and so that we’re operating on a very short timeline.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:45

    And second, I’ve been screaming and yelling about this since last August, and I’ve had a sense that the White House had a, not adequate sense of the urgency of getting this done on the hill and that they thought that putting the border in was a nice sweetener for the Republicans, and that was it. It was all gonna happen magically. You know, Kevin McCarthy would make it happen. To me, that was always sort of, you know, delusional, and I know from talking to Senator McConnell’s folks that they were waiting for outreach from the White House to, you know, help them with this. And and I am I missing something, or do you have the same sense?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:24

    I have the same sense. I don’t think you’re missing anything. I I, I am glad to see that the White House is finally finally getting engaged. And I think you’re exactly right. The president needs to himself, be engaged.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:39

    I mean, he he, makes makes the case for him that this is what he does well, you know, in particular in the senate. So so you would think that,
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:50

    and in particular with McConnell.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:52

    And in particular with McConnell, and he’s had some success in putting together bipartisan deals in, in the congress. So And if it is true, and I believe it is, that he does recognize the importance that you and I just described. He he recognizes the importance of Ukraine winning. And and the importance of Russia losing. I think he does recognize that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:18

    And And this is his now. I mean, he is all the end you would think. And so being all in, you would think he would do whatever’s necessary to break this loose. You’re you’re right about, time running out, time running out. And so, you know, I haven’t given up, but it’s getting pretty bad.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:36

    You know, here we are. A couple of days before the the Senate might go out. And, and there are two big things to Bulwark out. That is the the border and the the the assistance package. So, it’s it’s it’s dire, which goes back to the point about, Zelensky I mean, yeah, he he was actually down at the inauguration in Argentina, Argentina, and came up here and moved back.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:03

    And this was, this was a risk as you have said, but a risk that he probably thinks he has to take because time’s running out and because it’s so important.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:11

    Bill, I wanted to turn to an issue that’s been thrown out by a number of opponents of, you know, additional assistance to Ukraine. There’s one kind of argument that they make or people who claim there for it, but don’t really wanna vote for it. Who basically say, well, show us the strategy. What’s the strategy here? You know, what’s the end game?
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:31

    When does this end? You know? And then there’s a second argument, which is, oh, you guys all told us that they were gonna have this big counter offensive and succeed. It failed. So why throw, you know, good money after bad?
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:47

    Some of those arguments are made in totally bad faith, so I don’t even want you to necessarily address those, but It is an important question, I think, why the counter offensive did not meet expectations a lot of us. Certainly hoped for if if not expected. And we now hear a lot of discussion of of, you know, new strategy. I mean, I spent a couple of days in the Pentagon last week, and I heard a lot of, what I would describe as, you know, ass covering exposed facto rationalizations for why this failed, most of which were along the lines of Ukrainians didn’t fight this the way we told them to. They didn’t mask their forces in one place and break through to, Melita poll on the coast and split the Russian forces.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:41

    They frittered their forces away on Bakmoot and Avdika and getting a lodgment across the Napro and Harrison. They just didn’t do what we told them. And they didn’t use the equipment. We gave them. They didn’t use all armor we sent, you know, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, which I found borderline I mean, I could imagine as Ukrainian I would have felt it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:05

    I heard that. I mean, you know, we expected them to, you know, mass, you know, against this Russian defense in-depth, which turned out to be frankly, I think a lot denser and and, more dug in than, even we thought without air cover and superiority. The armor we gave them are m one Abrams tanks didn’t show up till late, you know, September when this fight was going on in June, July and August. So I I frankly did not find this, you know, very persuasive, but it clearly there’s a, you know, a bit of finger pointing going on in both sides can unpack all that for us.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:41

    Thank you, Gus. That’s it’s interesting what you heard in from from American sources and others. So I was in, so since the big, the Poplet invasion, I’ve been to cave, five times. I’ll be sixth time will be next month. My on the last trip, which is in October, I had the opportunity to sit down with general solutioning.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:03

    I’d met him one time before, many months ago. So in the first, maybe three or four months of four or five months of the, of the of the full fledged invasion. But, but this time, it was, the two of us having this conversation. And part of it was part of the discussion, Eric, was on this topic. And, again, this is in October.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:31

    About the same time, by the way, that, he must have been talking to the economist and writing that, an essay for the economist. But he said a couple of interesting things, in particular, looking back on it without thinking about what he said. One one thing that you’re a friend of the Pentagon and my old friends in in the in the military, will be interested. He said armor is obsolete. He said armor is obsolete.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:55

    He said, Both sides now, both the Ukrainians and the Russians, can see so well into the battle space, deep into the battle space, that they can see where the massing is taking place. And they can see where the thrusts are going to come. And not only can they see them, they can target the the armor very, very precisely Will Saletan of different things. He was talking about drones, but it’s also, you know, precision artillery and and other, precision weapons. That, and and that led him to say he said he was explicit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:32

    He said, armor’s obsolete. And he another thing he said, this is about the time, that the the the Russians had thrown a lot of their armor into Kupyat and had lost incredible amounts like Adivka, where they continue to lose just, incredible amounts. Over and over. And like the Ukrainians did in the in June, in the first part of the counter offensive, they lost just a lot of armor. Both because the the other side could see, and they could target.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:07

    So so that led him to the conclusion. Which Which does get to this question about about the tactics. You know, yeah, we trained them and we equipped them for combined arms and and, you know, mass concentrate, breakthrough, exploit, shatter the morale of of the enemy. But it turns out But it turns out that that’s real hard, to do in that in this new circumstance. The new circumstance of, of drones, of of, visibility in in in both directions.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:50

    And, and, and so, He, general’s illusiony, set a couple of interesting things beyond A armor is obsolete. He said he said that, he has fought this war. And he said, you know, NATO hasn’t fought a war, like this. And he said there’s we’ve learned a lot. And and, and one of the things is big armored thrust is not the not the way to win this war.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:26

    He also said that he was at so he’s a he’s quite a scholar. I was impressed. He’s quite a military scholar. I mean, you know, a couple of times, he he was in his off in in an office. He moves around the corner.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:40

    But in an office, it was pretty well established right behind him. We’re we’re a big library, big bookshelf, full of of military history books and and, tactics and strategy. And, and a couple of times, even reached back and picked pulled one out and and and read from it in particular, we were talking about stalemate. We’re talking about, deadlock. He said, you know, this reminds me of, of something I read in, in, in Russian, and in Soviet, military history, about one one one.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:09

    So I’ll I’ll just say he’d given a lot of thought because he’s a thoughtful man. And and he said, He said, you know, Chinese when they invented gunpowder, many centuries ago, that changed warfare, he said. And he said, technology is the new gun power. He said whoever exploits takes advantage of advances, figures out how to use new technology and breakthrough, they’re going to they’re gonna have an advantage, on the battlefield. And then he was, of course, talking about drones, but a lot about electronic warfare, and calvary drones, that, that, you know, don’t get the same kind of focus as high bar or attack ups, or Abraham tanks, but they’re really he sees this technology as being a a major shift in in warfare.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:01

    And, and and he says the timeline, the turnaround, the feedback loop between the front line his headquarters, and the manufacturers who, you know, of drones in little towns and houses around the country, is quick. That feedback loop is, is very quick and efficient. And he says, we do this, you know, We are flexible enough to do this. And I don’t think he said, that NATO and United States, are are in the same category that you can do it as fast as we are fighting a war, that no one has fought before. So that gets to this next question, Eric, that you asked about this possible change in strategy or tech.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:48

    I’m not sure which it is here. But it is It is if if it is true, if, Zulu’s right that, that armor, big armor thrusts and and breakthroughs are not going to happen for the reasons that we’ve talked about. Then what is the what’s the next what what’s the what’s the alternative? How to win this war? They’re still focused on.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:12

    And, the long range fires, provided to them, with the capabilities of the long range attack homes, and the, and the, unitary warheads that allows them to go after, maybe, not destroy the cartridge bridge, but they can do some real damage to, can disrupt, and if they can do the same kind of thing on the land bridge. So in other words, if they could use long range fires, to go after headquarters, supply dumps, lines of communication, bridges, to to to damage, the ability to re reduce the ability of the Russians to sustain their troops in Crimea or, just saying that just saying that troops in, zaporiza, or, or, across from Hassan. If they can do that kind of damage, that’s different from trying to break through, you know, well defended lines. It’s, it’s more of And then you can use infantry, which they’ve been using. You can, use infantry to go across, not in the same way tanks did and certainly not as fast as things do.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:24

    But you can do other tactics to be able to be in the end, you’re gonna occupied territory. He understands that. But it’s not gonna be in his view through tanks and armor and infantry fighting vehicles and armor personnel carriers, it’s going to be destroying, Russian sustainment, and, and, rear areas. And headquarters and, and then a a slower, but probably more effective. Well, yale is more effective, infantry tactics.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:53

    But I’d love to get your thoughts on this. And again, you spent, yeah, spent time over there in that building thinking about these things.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:59

    Well, a couple of things. One is, to your point about the training we gave them. Well, number one, yes, we trained them to do combined arms operation, but we train very small numbers over a very short period of time. As you know yourself, when we do this, we train units, you know, round the clock for the whole year before they go out, you know, to California to the National Training Center, where, you know, blue plays, you know, red and red always beats them because this is hard. It’s such hard for our guys training year round with all the stuff we have, and we expected the, you know, Ukrainians to master this in six weeks and, you know, and and, yeah, to me, that was always a little bit unrealistic.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:46

    On the the theme of, you know, the changing character of of war and, the technological elements that you and Zulu talked about. That’s of course the theme in a lot of ways of his lengthy essay that he appended to his, interview with the economist And I thought there was a lot, that, you know, rang rang true as I, you know, as I read that. I’m not sure armor is finished. I mean, I I think it’s a little premature to to write, the obituary of the tank, which has, you know, been written, you know, many times, but certainly I’m sensitive to the point he makes about electronic warfare and long range precision fires being used together with drones, you know, altogether to disable the enemy and allow you, you know, to attack. As we speak, the Israelis are using Merkava tanks and are in dire need of shells, in communist.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:50

    So, you know, I don’t think the tank is done just yet.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:53

    But I don’t see Hamas firing back with tanks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:57

    No. That’s that’s true, but I’m just saying there’s a place for tank It’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:01

    There is a blood protector.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:02

    They’re not they’re they’re not
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:03

    The battlefield, the battlefield that as illusion is looking at, you know, that it he’s fighting the bloody Russians.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:09

    No. I get it. Who’ve lost a lot of tanks themselves.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:12

    Yep.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:13

    And and certainly I, you know, the long range fires, the Ukrainians have used them to the ones that we’ve given them to to great effect, whether it’s the high Mars, excalibur rounds, the, the British, storm shadow or the French scalp, e, or the, shorter range attack comes with the, cluster munitions warheads that we’ve given them. They’ve used to great effect against the uh-uh Russian helicopters which were part of that kill chain you were describing earlier they ran into in the early parts of the counter offensive. It was those k a fifty two helicopters coming up with standoff uh-uh missiles that were taking out a lot of of the Ukrainian, APCs and tanks, in that initial go round, as I understand it, So they were able to, you know, knock a lot of those out on the ground with a a cluster variant. By the way, I still don’t understand, even though I’ve had people in the Pentagon at pretty senior levels explained to me, why we can’t give them all of those, cluster version of the attack them because we got about a thousand of them, I think, and and we won’t use them because they violate our cluster policy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:35

    Now there’s a an argument that was made to me that, well, but if we run out of all of our unitary warhead ones in extremis, we would have to use those. I mean, my view of the lesson of this war one of the lessons of this war is this this kind of combat, and I think we would find that in a in a China contingency as well. Consume enormous volumes of munitions. And whether it’s loitering munitions or one five five shells or tank rounds as the Israelis are discovering is just a lot of munitions. And one of the things that with the favors that Vladimir Putin has done for us is expose the frailty of our defense industrial base and its ability to mobilize and produce large numbers of these things if god forbid we get into a a a shoot and match with one of these adversaries around the world.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:29

    So the answer shouldn’t be, well, we only have enough to you know, to meet the demands of our existing, you know, o plans. You know, the answer should be we gotta produce more. So, you know, let’s let’s provide the Ukrainians with these things because they’re actually fighting one of our old plans right now for us. So why don’t we, you know, do that to reduce one of our adversaries while we start cranking up the machinery back here to produce more of these things? We could be the arsenal democracy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:58

    So that’s my take on it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:00

    Absolutely. Totally agree. And that’s, you know, as you say, kind of a silver lining of it. They they they highlighted the the need for defense investor based modernization and expansion, again, re expansion, to to do to do exactly this. No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:14

    I think that’s right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:15

    You know, on the whole question of Zaluzhny’s economist interview and his memo, you know, I I mean, I find that as, you know, someone who spends some time studying the, you know, future of warfare, very, very interesting. However, I’m not sure if as a sitting defense minister in the middle of a war, I would have actually published that in the economist or you know, giving it to the economist to publish, you know, without giving my president a heads up apparently, as I understand it. Well, I mean, what do you make of that in higher episode, and what does it tell us about the political dynamic inside inside Ukraine?
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:52

    That’s the right question. So my sense of him, is a is a dedicated focused professional military officer, with no political ambitions, that I could detect or that, you know, that I’ve seen from others, that’s not to say there aren’t people who think that he has, political emphasis, or or there’s not to say that there aren’t people that, suspect that if he had, if he were to develop political ambitions, he’d be he’d be formidable adversary to whoever he goes up against. And so that has led to, that the kinds of things that people have written about, which is this apparent tension, between Zaluzhny and Zelensky, the general and the president. They both know. They both know the importance of unity.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:57

    And they both know how dangerous it is or would be. For there to be daylight, between the president and the general. But it gets to your question, Eric, the the the internal politics, of, Ukraine. You know, the Ukraine is a real raucous democracy. And it’s, you know, it has been, arguing and, debating and, you know, scrapping about, about policies, having to do with east and west, Europe and and Russia NATO or not, language issues.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:44

    I mean, this is a real democracy that has had harsh even, debates about about these kind of things. So it they’re real but since the twenty twenty fourth of February, twenty twenty two, even the opposition leaders, have fallen in behind Zelensky, and have supported, you know, whether or not he’s accepted their corn in some real sense. They they have there has not been the sniping, that you got. So I I was there, Eric, I was in Kiev one of the times, just before the invasion. So I was there in January of twenty twenty two.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:21

    At the end of January, probably three weeks before the actual invasion.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:24

    Yeah. I remember you were there with a couple of other of your former colleague, former ambassador colleagues.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:32

    And a couple of we had interesting time there. We had to divide up our our delegation. Half had to go to a public event, and two of us, general Hodges. Ben Hodges and I got to go talk to to president Zelensky. And but we also, in that same trip, we talked to opposition leaders, UNi Demoshenko, for example, and, Petro Poroshenko.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:56

    Clear opposition leaders, and clearly opposition. And, just before the invasion. So three weeks before they were doing what opposition leaders do, and that is pointing out the problems, pointing out, the mistakes that, president Zel was making. But as soon as the invasion, they all fell in, offered their support. And and that continues And I’m and I’m firmly, I firmly believe that, that Zaluzhanie, is has no political ambitions, at at this point.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:29

    And so can contribute to this to this unity. That said, there are some, you know, so eighteen months know, I was there at the beginning, but also I’ve been there, you know, last October, for example, and talk to people. And you sure. I mean, eighteen, nineteen coming on twenty months. Of, of fighting, and of horrible conditions, not just for the soldiers.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:54

    I mean, horrible for the soldiers. But really bad for the people, for the Ukrainians. I mean, the attacks on the electrical infrastructure, means that it’s cold and dark, and and sometimes hungry and without water, because the electricity runs the water pumps, it’s it’s it’s miserable. And so you get these tensions. And these tensions are gonna gonna spill out.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:18

    And, and and people will say, well, you know, we should have been better prepared or, you know, you know, what about this, you know, kind of offensive and, you know, there are these kind of road rumblings, but but the but the people and the military, and even the politicians, even no matter what they say kind of privately or quietly, they are strongly supportive of the president, strongest, opposed to negotiations, for example, strongly opposed to compromises with the Russians to stop it very concerned when they hear, Americans. No. Nobody in the US government that I’ve heard yet, but there are Americans out there who are saying to the US government, to other You know, it’s times. It’s just time time for negotiations. You know, the we should put the Americans should push on their Ukraine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:06

    Well, the Ukraine are not buying none of the grain. Virtually none of the grains are are are willing to even and entertain that. So I’ll say that the politics, are showing the strain the the what’s going on there is, after twenty twenty one months of fighting. And, of, miserable conditions. They’re they’re tired.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:30

    They are tired. They’re not giving up they Will Saletan back to our earlier conversation. If, if we get tired and if we stop supplying them with the weapons they need, they’ll continue to fight. They will fight on with whatever they have. Europeans are stepping up to some degree and good for them.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:49

    Good for them. European’s kinda worried that we might be falling off and where Europeans worry about other political changes that might happen, and they’re stepping up and they need to step up a lot. They do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:00

    And the only problem I have with that is that their, defense industrial basis isn’t even worse shape than ours. And they’re, therefore, their ability to actually fill, the gap, you know, absent to a US sizable contribution is is somewhat somewhat limited. Bill, you know, another argument you hear or another criticism you hear of Ukraine and and of president Zelensky is that he’s becoming an autocrat you know, they’re supposed to have an election and he has said, well, you know, according to constitution in Ukraine, you can’t have an election when there’s you know, martial law in effect, which are a state of emergency, which they have. And and therefore, he’s governing as an autocrat. I mean, you’ve addressed some of that you know, already, but it does seem to me that they’re, you know, it is a an issue to that people are not wrong to be concerned about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:58

    Right? I mean, in in other words, it’s very easy to slide into, you know, from military necessity to you know, I am the law. And so how should the US government and, European governments think about that and deal with it. And then the second, one is, you know, to try and do all the things, all of us who support Ukraine against Russia, you know, wanna do for Ukraine, whether it’s EU membership, whether it’s NATO membership, Obviously, Ukraine has to clean up a lot of the flaws that it’s have. I mean, you you’ve rightly pointed out the fact that this is has been for a while a pretty lively vibrant democracy, but a very flawed one with, very significant in particular corruption.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:47

    To his credit, I think Zelensky has taken steps against some of the Ukrainian oligarchs. Some of that’s been facilitated by the fact that a bunch of them were kind of in Putin’s pocket. So it made it easier to go after them after February twenty four but it’s also opened him up to these charges that he’s acting, you know, kind of in a high handed autocratic way. What can we do to take advantage of the moment this offers us to clean up, you know, some of these, corruption and other other issues, that have plagued Ukraine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:20

    Absolutely, Eric. No. You’re exactly right. So, two things. Elections and then the reforms and and corruption.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:27

    On elections, this was prompted. You’re you’re exactly right. I mean, it’s against the law. It’s against the constitution for them to have elections when there’s a martial law. They would have to change that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:38

    And you can’t change the constitution while you’re at war, so while you’re in March blood. So so they’re so they would have violate the constitution to have elections. And the election idea came from some westerners. US Senator showed up and came out of a meeting with, president Litsky and said, I think there should be election, this this year. And, And so that kind of and then there was a European official who, made the same, suggestion or request or, you know, ask the same the same issue about, you know, about English.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:10

    And, the society, as well as the opposition, as well as the government has debated that. It was a serious question. And in the end, after a couple of months of this, again, prompted by some questions for foreigners, concluded exactly what you said. Couple of things. One is, it’s against the law against the constitution, martial law, two, the Brits didn’t have, you know, they say the Americans, you know, Americans had elections during World War two, and we said, yeah, but we were fighting on American soil, and and which gets to the point about, soldiers, soldiers a would like to vote.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:52

    And b, soldiers probably like to run. I mean, we talk about delusionally. I don’t think he has any interest in it, but there are there are gonna be soldiers when the elections come. Who will be popular? Who Will Saletan and and and and Zelensky recognizes that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:06

    And is is, It says this is why we can’t have elections now because we can’t pull soldiers out to come come vote or run campaign because the Russians will take advantage of them not being there. And, the the concern about, you know, probably seven, eight million Ukrainians who are abroad, mostly women. But it would have to vote in in in overwhelming numbers in in Poland and in the Czech Republic and then Germany and then Portugal. Some here, but, this is not set up. There’s no way to do that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:43

    The mechanics would just be very challenging.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:46

    It would be incredibly challenging and and expensive. People have suggested online voting and, you know, that that is not not gonna happen in in more time. All to say that, that the opposition and and even the, you know, the pro democracy, non government organizations, activists, said they signed a big letter saying, not now. After the war, the greatest contender to say after the victory, after the war, after the victory, then yes. Of course.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:11

    You have lectures. And that’s, that’s, what, what, Zelensky has also said on the or, Eric, your question, on a good question on reform, and corruption. The the the EU did an amazing thing. June of twenty twenty two, they said you’re a candidate. Ukraine, you and and Mogola.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:29

    Our candidates, to join the EU, and that has incentivized. That is really pro kicked into high gear a lot of reforms. A lot of issues that have they’re gonna be hard for the Ukraine to do it politically, to bring their systems into alignment with EU standards. But that is a, heavy reform incentive, that that is going on there. And on corruption, you’re you’re exactly right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:55

    They have done some some things. They’ve got big problems. The two biggest sources of corruption that my experience, both in both times I was there were, one, oligarchs. You talked about. And two courts, and they’re related because oligarchs could buy judges.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:08

    But the courts were notorious notoriously corrupt. In fact, is one of the one of the maybe the worst court, the most corrupt court was some little court called the, Keeve District Administrative Court. Keeve District Administrative. When you say administrative court in one middle district, what’s the deal? How can it be?
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:29

    Well, it turns out that being in key where the where the government is, if you if the government took a decision that you didn’t like, you can go to the key administrative court and get it overturned or blocked or somehow. And the chief justice of the King District of Court was almost certainly pro wrestling. If he was pro wrestling, and almost certainly taking money, from the from the Kremlin. And so so he was so what when’s so when I was there in twenty nineteen, I said, to, to, year box predecessor. I said, you know, It turns out the USAID lawyers have found a way you can get rid of that court under your constitution.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:10

    You can get rid of that court. And both times said, yeah, we’ll take a look at it, but it didn’t do anything. But last year, so a year ago now, in the middle of this war, Zelensky eliminated that court. I mean, he just wiped it out. Number one.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:24

    Number two, the perception of corruption is measured every year. By transparency international. There’s some two hundred countries on that. Ukraine used to be in, like, one sixty six. The Russians were always lower.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:37

    The Russians were more corrupt. Always proceed. But, nonetheless, that was not a good place to be. In Ukraine now, I get there, like, one sixteen. So they’ve made a lot of progress.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:46

    Still not great. A hundred and sixteen, you know, but they made it they made big progress beyond the court that I mentioned about, you know, setting up and and and establishing the, national anti corruption Bureau of Ukraine. They’re called Nahoo. And the, the special anti corruption prosecutor’s office, high anti corruption court was designed to to, to, try it’s a a special court to try senior officials who are accused of corruption. And and what Zelensky has done is given them the capability to to do their jobs, which they didn’t have before.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:22

    And, and they have in announced rest restated this the most the most, intrusive, public disclosure, financial disclosure for public officials. Anyway, I think anywhere in the world. Certainly anywhere in Europe is more more than ours. You you have to list every, you know, watch or or a car or flat in Dubai or, you know, apartment in, in here. Or for you and your wife and the kicker here is you put they they have they put it online.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:55

    So that the very, very, aggressive, press corps can go in there and say, oh, you know, this mayor in this town, we know, how much money he makes. And we know it because of this disclosure online, we know he owns some flats in, in in, in London. What’s going on here? How can you all to say, Eric, that they have done a lot on this, and they should be given credit. They’ve got more to do.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:22

    They’re absolutely no doubt about that They know it. And, the people know it. The government knows it, and they’re taking steps. But, I I think this is one that they are addressing. EU membership is a big thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:35

    But also they know it’s important for them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:38

    Bill, we’re running short on time and and, urine high demand because of the events of the day. So I wanna, wrap this up. I do wanna, you just started to say, I don’t think you ever completed the thought. That, Britain did not have elections during World War two until after ve day, at, at which point, then prime minister Winston Churchill was unceremoniously turned out of office after having won the war by the British people and replaced by Clement Atley in the middle of an international conference at potsdam. So,
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:11

    I imagine president Zelensky knows that history. Nonetheless, he’s committed to, to having elections afterwards after the victory.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:19

    So so I I really wanted to close on, and I what I think is the big question sort of facing members of Congress as kind of they look at themselves in the mirror in the morning, whether they get this done, whether they do their jobs and get this done or not. Which is, what happens if we don’t get this? What are the likely consequences you know, in, in Ukraine. I mean, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser has said there is no plan b, you know, We run out of money. Now, of course, they they run out of money, to replenish US stocks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:59

    But, there’s still a lot of stuff that was procured by the, Ukraine security assistance, initiative funds, that have were put on contract that haven’t been delivered yet. So there will be some continuing delivery of of some items for, you know, period of the next year. That’s not enough to sustain the Ukrainians, but in something, it’s not nothing. And there is this lend lease authority that the Congress gave the administration, before the big packages got got approved So what’s your sense of the, consequences and what’s the plan b?
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:40

    So the plan b’s are are not well established and you’ve just gone over of them. When I asked about, then lease, earlier before it looked like they were, we were gonna run out of money. The answer from your old colleagues in the Pentagon was, you know, why would we use lend lease? When we’re we’re providing this, drawdown authority, lend lease, they’re gonna have to pay back. But now it turns out, that that I I imagine they’re taking a look at that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:09

    You know, there there is that authority there. There are there are questions about the levels of stocks. And I would say that one of the it’s not plan b, but another minor issue. They can look to see if they’ve been how conservative they’ve been on on drawdown of stocks? Now, you you will know more than I about, these operation plans in other parts of the world that that demand that require stocks of,
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:31

    of War reserve stocks. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:33

    War reserve stocks. And, and, you know, we’re pretty conservative about that. And, you know, normally we should be. This is the war. This is the time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:41

    And if you said, we’re we’re starting to crank up our ability to replace those. So that we that they, the, you know, we may not have, a plan b. Ukrainians are thinking about this as I say. They are the problem with Europeans. Europeans are working on their plan b.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:59

    But but frankly, the sad thing is what Zelensky said last time when he was here, and I imagine that he we may hear it again, is if this has not passed, they will have a real hard time winning this war. They will have a very hard time. And and then and then Eric, you and I will be asking questions, you know, I hate to use. They gotta, you know, if if Ukraine is lost, if if Russia wins and Ukraine loses, we’re gonna be asking ourselves. Why was that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:34

    You know, and and the consequences of that of Russia being on the border. It it’s already on the border, of course, of, Finland and and Lafayette Lithuania, But on the border with Poland and and Romania, and to see what the Russians will do, if if they win this war, which, you know, it their odds go up. If we don’t provide these weapons, And the same thing in the other parts of the world, you know, other things that, you know, if if if president Xi sees that the Americans are not there for the Ukrainians and give up on the Ukrainians. Get tired or can’t can’t, meet their commitments. He’s in bold.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:15

    There’s no doubt about it. So so there there are dire consequences here, which, again, goes back to what we started talking about at the beginning. This is why Zelensky’s here. Just a available to make that make that case.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:27

    Hard to disagree with any of that. Our guest has been ambassador, Bill Taylor, Bill, thank you for all of your service to the nation and your continued service at at USIP and I know how active you’ve been, in terms of this Ukraine, fight and, always on the side of the angels. So thank you, and hope we can have you back, from time to time on Shilded Republic to take the temperature on where we are in Ukraine. Hopefully not to debate who lost Ukraine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:56

    Eric, it’s a daughter, a pleasure to be here. I’d love talking with you about these kinds of things, and, I’d love to do it again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:03

    Thanks, Bill.